Come and listen to a story about a man named Ed,
A wily financier with too much power in his head,
He was done building dams, but he’s not a man to brood,
And so up from the sea came a bubblin’ crude,
Oil, that is. Black gold. Labrador tea.
Hearts sank in Labrador when Nalcor announced there may be oil under the seabed off the region’s north coast.
Naturally, those who earn money pumping hydrocarbons out of the ground, or by buying and selling it at a high profit, are far from downcast. In fact, they’re all a-giggle at the news that Nalcor might have found them yet another public resource they can exploit for private gain. Unfortunately, most of the happy people are in St. John’s. That’s where the president of Nalcor revealed to the oil industry and not to the House of Assembly that he might have found more bubbling crude.
There’s no proof yet there’s any oil in these new places off the coast of Labrador. So far, all Nalcor has been able to discover with the nearly $30-million of taxpayers’ money it spent on early exploration is that there might be oil or gas in some geological formations under the seabed, a type of formation known to hold hydrocarbon deposits.
Well, the first thing you know old Ed’s a billionaire,
Market said, “Ed, get it away from there,”
Said, “Labrador’s not the place it ought to be,”
So they sold all the oil for the folks in Saint Johnny,
Newfoundland, that is. Foggy rock. Politicians.
So, not knowing if there’s oil under the Labrador Sea or not, the first step, according to Nalcor’s president, is to spend even more public money (around $5 million) to confirm the big maybe. After that, the next step is to sell the territory off to the highest bidder — that is, to whichever multinational mega-corporation pays the most for the privilege of further exploring the Henley, Holton and Chidley basins. If it doesn’t find anything, that company will lose every cent it sinks into the underwater drilling it will have to do all over the seabed, but it also stands to become slightly richer if black gold does indeed fill those three basins off Makkovik, Postville and Hopedale. There could be enough oil under there to keep a corporation’s prime shareholders afloat for years and make any number of pilot fish happy with a feast of tertiary industry scraps.
However, the pleasure southern oilmen feel about the possibility of a discovery is not shared by many who actually live near the suspected resource — those adjacent to this potential source of revenue. In fact, the reaction in Labrador has been muted: no celebrations. No one is wondering if they need bigger wallets. Instead they’re saying in dismissive tones: here we go again! Nalcor’s Labrador “candy store” is open for business, as one detractor puts it. More of Labrador is up for sale, but nobody in Labrador is doing the selling.
Having recently endured Nalcor’s steamroller sanctioning of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, those who desire moderation in this manic drive to exploit Labrador no matter what the cost, already know what to expect with this new development. First, as has already happened, a huge amount of increasingly scarce public money that could have been used to provide public services to citizens on the coast of Labrador is instead used to subsidize private profiteering. Next, as we’re seeing, every subsequent decision concerning the extraction and use of the resource will be made outside of Labrador and that’s where all the benefits will go, as well.
All Labrador stands to get from any offshore well is a gift of whatever oil accidentally leaks from the pipes and washes ashore on an ocean slick. No doubt when that happens it won’t be Nalcor coming with the mops and buckets.
Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to Ed and all his kin,
Because we’re kind of tired of them always dropping in,
They’d be invited back again to this locality,
But they’ve probably found a way of selling hospitality,
Labrador’s, that is. The Big Land. With the big sky.
Y’all stay away now, y’hear?
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.